Odisha: Livelihood felled for rural house thatching professional

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Report by Kahnu Nanda; Jagatsinghpur: With the advent of concrete proof house after the 1999 super cyclone , one section of people who earned their livelihood by specializing in lying the bamboo and straw roofs in Kucha house have lost their jobs in Jagatsinghpur district as well as in many parts of Odisha.
Most of the Kucha houses with hay thatched roofs are giving way to concrete houses in many parts of the Jagatsinghpur district so depletion of Kucha houses and increased use of concrete roofs and asbestos have put this rural laboures losing jobs when they are now in search of other profession and switching over to alternative jobs.
A rough estimate at least 10 thousands living in this district used to specialize and earn their livelihood by staking and neatly binding the straw and bamboo roof of Kucha houses in rural areas mainly in coastal pockets.
Their works start from month of March to the end of May every year; usually they used to be overworked prior to the monsoon as it was the time when every household re-laid the roof with fresh stock of hay and straw and make their Kucha houses yearly renovation.
During summer months these people are used to earn almost three times than daily labour charge and they would save much of it to sustain their family for the next three to four months and has been recognized lucrative income doing this seasonal profession.
The post 1999 super cyclone restoration works had witnessed a transformation by way of massive construction activity in all rural areas of this district as because most of Kucha mud thatched houses had razed , so households of Kucha and dwelling houses were converted into concrete houses, Lakhs of Indira Awas Yojana [IAY] houses were distributed by government besides HUDCO provided easy housing loans for the people and NGOs too gave free concrete houses to cyclone victims, as consequence situation reported In present about 5 percent of Kucha houses now exist in different villages of this district.
Reports say that most of people prefer to build their cowsheds and kitchens in Kucha house in present and already have abandoned residential house from Kucha and dwelling houses, one Markanda Bhoi a thatching labour from Rambhadei pur village here says that earlier his income was around Rs 10 thousand to Rs 15 thousands from seasonal roof thatching profession but now he gets very few calls as because most of the villagers have covered their houses either asbestos or concrete roof, that leads reducing his income since Super Cyclone 1999, he adds.
However the shift from the straw house to Pucca houses have also affected thousands of people those were getting indirect employment by cutting bamboo, collecting straw, palm strip and rope making sectors were dependent on the Kucha house the present decreasing numbers of mud thatched houses have gone down their business, informs Bhaskar Behera a palm strip and rope maker from Birabarpatna village here.
On the other hand most of concrete house owners who abandoned the Kucha houses opine that , after the super cyclone occurrence all the mud thatched houses were razed to surface, usually people fell the mud straw roof houses are lack of cyclonic resistance, so they preferred to built their houses in concrete roofs, says Nisakar Sahoo a concrete house owner.
Moreover the cost of yearly thatching and other materials are used for thatching have gone up drastically and also scarcity of thatching professionals in rural areas are main reason people dislike to construct Kutcha house further more shortage of this thatching professional in villages too press people to throw out thatched houses and few octogenarian thatching professionals inform the present generation dislike to learn this art citing lack of dividend, informs Kalandi Behera an octogenarian thatching professional from Birabarpatana village.
While sources confirm shortage of thatching professional in villages have become roadblock for inclining people to construct a Kucha house, the cost of a thatching professional was about Rs 40 to Rs 50 a decade ago but now it comes increasing four to five folds so discouraging people to built a Kucha house.
While people having Kutcha houses in present say for kitchen and cowshed, rural people usually prefer making it on thatched roofs as because after paddy harvesting straws are collected from the paddy are used it for house thatching but in present straws are going to waste in paddy fields and price of straw has been decreased significantly due to absence of people’s requirement, and dwindling number of thatched houses in rural pocket, informs Niranjan Satapathy a farmer. [Ends]

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